As we welcome new trainees to our business in unique circumstances in 2020, Maya Allen, a Trainee Solicitor within MacRoberts' Projects team, shares her initial experiences of life as a virtual trainee with the firm.

When I secured my legal traineeship, walking into an empty office with a mask on was not quite how I imagined my first day at a law firm. I’d been looking forward to my first day for so long - and it was great, albeit rather different to what I had originally envisaged!

My first day consisted of a socially-distanced firm induction where the new trainees were shown how to use the IT equipment and meet other members of the team. At the end of the day, we all left with a large box of kit ready to get set up at home.

We were set up to work from home from day two, and have had the opportunity to virtually meet colleagues across different departments and learn more about the firm. While working from my living room is not quite what I had planned when starting my legal career, the atmosphere does feel sociable, mirroring the experience I would have expected to have when working in a busy office environment.

I was nervous about starting from home, knowing how important it is for a trainee solicitor to be able to interact with members of the team and the wider firm - and to learn by osmosis alongside experienced lawyers. The firm has excellent communication channels and my initial fears have been unfounded. All of the new trainees have been made to feel comfortable from day one and there is a strong ethos of communication and transparency throughout the firm. There is a clear message not to feel afraid to pick up the phone and talk to anyone at any time, and a strong emphasis on mental wellbeing and being mindful of isolation from the People & Development Team.

I have certainly found that the firm has used technology really well to help me interact with colleagues and form valuable work, and social, relationships. My first seat of the traineeship is in the Projects department; the full team has calls twice a week, which is a good opportunity to find out what is happening and to put myself forward to work on tasks. I am also invited to join client calls to replicate the general discussions I would usually observe in day-to-day office life.

We have also had an individual video call with Neil Kennedy, MacRoberts’ Managing Partner, to check up on how we have settled in. We were also assigned a trainee mentor, from within our team, and a trainee buddy who will engage with us throughout our traineeship. The firm ensured we would have numerous people to turn to and this was very much appreciated in the first couple of weeks.

All of the first-year trainees have weekly catch-up calls and have all been in touch regularly. We have also had virtual lunches with the second year trainees, which are pretty informal and a great way to meet others starting out on their legal career.

With all the usual social activities effectively on hold, the firm has embraced various ‘virtual’ ways of getting together outside working hours, including quiz nights, gin tastings, wreath making and a charity challenge taking on the NorthCoast500 (virtually of course!).

Working from home in a new role has presented different challenges but this is the reality that most trainee solicitors are facing. However, I am pleased to say that MacRoberts has made me feel very welcome and valued. I really feel part of a team and the wider firm – and, thankfully, it has been a much smoother transition than I expected!

So, what’s next? MacRoberts is planning a phased and flexible return to the office and while I understand that won’t be happening in the very near future, I look forward to walking into a slightly less empty office – in my mask – before too long.